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Research Agenda

In addressing a constantly shifting plurality of literary communities, Research Area 1 "Competing Communities" stresses the issue of competition: how do divergent communities co-exist in relations of entanglement? How do they compete, interact and even intersect at the same time? Against the backdrop of these and other questions, RA 1 tackles (literary) communities as sites of multiple forms of competition – between different notions of the literary, discourses, material and artistic practices, gendered concepts of literature, as well as between linguistic, cultural and literary groups and circles.

Within the larger framework of the Cluster’s overall research agenda, RA 1 contends that the very concept of globality is always already a 'fiction'; what we actually observe are competing communities that explicitly or implicitly make claims to their own 'globality' in time. Our research projects thus acknowledge the multiplicity and inexhaustibility of global relations and how such relations generate both exclusion and inclusion. We furthermore address a multitude of potentially conflicting interrelations that are marked by their performative, processual, creative and competitive character.

RA 1 particularly stresses the link between 'community' and 'communication' – for any study of human communality needs to address the techniques and technologies that mediate and sustain specific types of communal activity. "Competing Communities" therefore suggests that the communicative conditions of communal interaction are by no means exhausted by the biological fact of language being spoken, heard and understood. Human communities regularly entail types of mediation that complicate or exceed basic linguistic contacts. Cultural 'arts' such as mnemotechnics, rhetoric, writing or translation are decisive for the genesis of temporal communities, along with non-verbal or trans-linguistic modes of communication (performative, artistic, institutional, technological, etc.). Moreover, when a community emerges specifically as an effect of literary communication, the term ‘community’ loses whatever associations with organic cohesion and evolution, with which it may have been related in earlier contexts.

By focusing on the shifting and competing nature of (literary) communities as well as their interdependencies, RA 1 challenges both the (sociologically determined) notion of community as organic social cohesion and the dichotomy of centre and periphery that has pervaded not only postcolonial studies, but also influential approaches to what has been framed as 'world literature'. In studying the dynamics of how literary communities compete, RA 1 researchers investigate how the very idea of 'the centre' is constructed in processes of entanglement, reciprocity and conflict. Members of RA 1 thus focus on concrete examples of literary competition, such as competition for validity, attention and the resources of survival. In so doing, RA 1 attends both to competition between and within communities.